Now Casting: L.A. Premiere of ‘An Octoroon’ opens new Outdoor Stage at Fountain Theatre

The Fountain Theatre is now casting roles for its Los Angeles Premiere of the Obie Award-winning play, An Octoroon, by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. The production will launch the new Outdoor Stage at the Fountain Theatre. Judith Moreland directs.

Rehearsal Dates: 5/12/2021 – 6/10/2021

Preview Dates: 6/11/2021 – 6/16/2021

Opening Date: 6/18/2021

Closing Date: 9/19/2021

Performance Schedule: Fridays – Mondays 7pm

ROLES:

[BJJ/George/M’Closky]

30 to 45 years old, Black/African American male. A frustrated contemporary playwright.  Probing, idealistic, quick-witted, mocking. Puts on whiteface to make sense of Boucicault’s 19th century melodrama, playing both the cartoonish white villain (M’Closky) and the white hero (George) who falls in love Zoe. Seeking a skilled versatile actor who moves well. Strong sense of comedic timing a must. 

[Assistant/Pete/Paul]

30 to 45 years old, male. Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern or South Asian. Seeking fearless versatile actor to don blackface to play older slave Pete (offensive caricature —think Stepin Fetchit) and Paul (cartoonish pickaninny-type slave child—think Alfalfa from Our Gang). Actor must find the humanity in these disturbing stereotypical characters. 

[ZOE]

25 to 35 years old, female. Caucasian, Biracial, or multi-racial. White in appearance, Zoe is The Octoroon (person 1/8th Black by descent) of the title. Raised as a white-passing free woman but legally a slave. Educated, kind-hearted, dutiful, loyal – yet filled with self-loathing. Treated as though she has no mind of her own and no right to make her own decisions. Seeking classically-trained actress to bring heart to Zoe’s tragic journey.

[DORA]

30 to 40 years old, Caucasian female. A fading Southern Belle. Self-absorbed, privileged, spoiled, a wealthy plantation heiress vying for George’s affection.  Actress must have strong comic timing.

[MINNIE]

35 to 50 years old, Black/African American female. House slave on the plantation, new at the job. Brash, unfiltered, no-nonsense, opinionated. A gossip. A slave, yet her language is modern. Must have strong comic timing.    

[DIDO]

35 to 45 years old, Black/African American female. Long-time house slave on the plantation. Wise, responsible, dry, with a sly sense of humor. Knows her place, as well as where the bodies are buried. A slave, yet her language is modern. Must have strong comic timing. 

[GRACE]

25 to 30 years old, Black/African American female. Pregnant domestic slave. Jaded, cynical. Not afraid to call things out with her own realistic spin, stand up for herself, or use her fists if she needs to.  Yearns to run away, even though she is pregnant. A slave, yet her language is modern. Must have strong comic timing.   

STORYLINE:

An Octoroon is a play about a play. A modern-day Black playwright is struggling to find his voice among a chorus of people telling him what he should and should not be writing. He adapts his favorite play, The Octoroon by Dion Boucicault, a 19th-century melodrama about illicit interracial love written seven years after Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Black Playwright quickly realizes that getting white, male actors of today to play evil slave owners will not be easy. So, he decides to play the white male roles himself – in whiteface. What ensues is an upside down, topsy-turvy world where race and morality are challenged, mocked and savagely intensified. A highly stylized, theatrical, melodramatic reality is created to tell the story of an octoroon woman (a person who is ⅛ black) named Zoe and her quest for identity and love. Racial stereotypes are brutally satirized. Funny and profoundly tragic, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octoroon is a whirlwind of images and dialogue that forces audiences to look at, laugh at, and be shattered by America’s racist history. Winner of the OBIE Award for Best New American Play.

To submit: Via Breakdown Services and Actors Access.

Questions? Email us at casting@fountaintheatre.com

Happy Birthday, Fountain Theatre: 31 years!

Pens up! End of Play is about to begin…

by France-Luce Benson

One of the many things I’ve desperately missed in this time of isolated lockdown is the beautiful ritual of sharing space with fellow writers to do what we love most – write. Some of my favorite spots were the Writer’s Guild Association Library, Café Intelligentsia, and the warm homes of my lovely writer friends. If you’ve ever sat in silence with other artists to collectively create, you know what a powerful experience it can be. Not only does it increase focus and productivity, but there is something spiritual that happens when artists come together. I believe that creative energy, like laughter, like kindness, is contagious. When I sit with fellow artists committed to doing the work, their dedication and passion boost my own, and likewise. I am reminded what a gift I’ve been given, to be among a community of artists who encourage, challenge, and support one another.

I am thrilled to announce that the Fountain Theatre has joined the Dramatists Guild’s Southern California region as an End of Play™ partner.

The Dramatists Guild of America is the national, professional membership trade association of theatre writers including playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists. The Guild was established for the purpose of aiding dramatists in protecting both the artistic and economic integrity of their work, and has grown into both and advocacy organization for professional dramatists, as well as an artistic sanctuary. Some of the services and initiatives provided include legal aide in contract negotiations, emergency grants for artists experiencing financial hardship, and ongoing reading series for new work development.

A member since 2008, I have been fortunate enough to benefit from all of the above-mentioned programs. Additionally, I was honored to have been awarded a Dramatists Guild Fellowship from 2015-2016. Each year four playwrights and four musical theatre teams are selected for the Fellowship in which emerging dramatists receive professional mentorship and artistic support. Since then, I have served as a teaching artist in the DG’s Traveling Masters program, in which playwrights facilitate workshops across the United States. All of this to say, I know first hand how devoted the Dramatists Guild is to providing playwrights, composers, and lyricists with resources so vital to our work.

End of Play™ is an annual Dramatists Guild initiative to cultivate new plays. For the entire month of April, playwrights, composers, and lyricists will commit to completing a new play, song, score, screenplay, or revised draft of an existing work. In an effort to help us achieve our goals, the Dramatists Guild and partnering organizations will host a series of silent virtual writing sessions each day. You need not be a Dramatists Guild member to participate. All are welcome, and participants may register for as many sessions as they wish.

The Fountain Theatre will host three of these writing sessions: Saturday April 3, 10, and 17, from 9-10:30amPDT. Each of the Fountain’s sessions will end with optional community building where participants will be invited to say hello, share a bit about their process, and get to know each other.

To culminate End of Play™ 2021, the Fountain Theatre will host a presentation of selected excerpts written over the course of the month. Stay tuned for information about the readings.

To register for our writing sessions, please visit https://www.dramatistsguild.com/end-of-play

Pens up April 1. Pens down April 30. We hope to see you in between.

France-Luce Benson is an accomplished playwright and the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Fountain Theatre.

CALLING ALL LOS ANGELES WRITERS, COMPOSERS, AND LYRICISTS

JOIN US IN THE CREATION OF NEW WORK THROUGHOUT THE MONTH OF APRIL

The Fountain Theatre is thrilled to participate in The Dramatists Guild’s annual End of Play Initiative. Throughout the month of April, Dramatists across the U.S. are committing to completing one new theatrical work. Whether it be a new play, song, score, screenplay or revised draft of an existing work in progress – End of Play is here to help you achieve your goals through community support and encouragement.

Beginning April 1, DG will offer a variety of programming designed to motivate and inspire, including silent writing retreats, workshops, and readings.

In collaboration with the Southern California DG Region, The Fountain Theatre will host four of these events:

Silent Writing Retreats
Saturdays April 3, 10, and 17 from 9am-10:30am.

Playwrights around the U.S. (and the world) will come together for a full focused hour of writing, followed by some time to chat, share, and network. All are welcome!

Readings of New Works

May 1st 5pm-6:30pm

To celebrate the fruits of our labor, The Fountain will present excerpts from works created as a result of End of Play.

You do not need to be a member of the Dramatist Guild to participate in any of the End of Play events.

To register for the Silent Writing Retreats and/or information regarding the readings, click here

Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci: When good things happen to good people

Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci

by Stephen Sachs

Theirs is a unique relationship unlike any I have witnessed in my thirty-five years of creating theater.

They have been paired for decades. They have worked, travelled, and partied together, side by side, for so long they seem to share the same mind while, at the same time, remaining two distinct personalities. Like brothers, they love each other and sometimes piss each other off. Both are married, have families. Now, after logging in countless years of career ups and downs, together and individually, they each are bathing in a dizzying moment of public acclaim and professional success. It makes my heart glad.

Troy Kotsur is an extraordinary actor who happens to be Deaf. Paul Raci is hearing, a child of Deaf parents, fluent in American Sign Language, and a powerful veteran performer. For years, they have been linked on stage – an actor who signs and an actor who speaks – creating mesmerizing blends of sign language and voice on stage, dazzling deaf and hearing audiences in Los Angeles and in regional theaters across the country. I have known and loved both for a long time. We have created new plays together at the Fountain Theatre. My soul sings to now see them bask in the warmth of a bright day in the sun, each in his own light.       

Troy co-stars in “CODA,” a touching coming-of-age dramedy about a young girl in conflict with her Deaf parents and brother as she attempts to pursue singing. In January, it received top honors at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. It ignited a bidding war, setting a record when the worldwide distribution rights were picked up by Apple Studios for $25 million — the highest sum ever for a film premiering at Sundance.

Paul has a supporting role in the film “Sound of Metal.” The movie – and Paul’s performance –has been gobbling up accolades and awards since its release. The film has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and, in a life-changing nod to Paul’s work, Best Supporting Actor.

It fills me with joy that each are enjoying a moment of triumph at the same time. And it makes sense. When they played brothers on stage in the world premiere of my play “Cyrano,” they were called upon to become the same person. In this Deaf spin on the classic romantic story, Paul portrayed Chris, the hearing sibling who spoke and ASL-interpreted for his lovelorn Deaf brother Cyrano (Troy). Hands and voice became one. After our acclaimed run at the Fountain, we travelled to New York Theatre Workshop for a special performance. We then brought the play to Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis.

Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci in “Cyrano” at the Fountain Theatre

Troy and Paul later co-starred in a Deaf West production of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” that opened in Los Angeles and then toured other cities.  

The relationship between a Deaf actor and their hearing counterpart who “voices” for them on stage is tricky and delicate. It demands respect on both sides, with the understanding that it is the Deaf actor who dominates, who must lead the way. The “voice actor” partners with the Deaf actor to help make the performance accessible to hearing audiences – but the focus must be on the Deaf actor’s performance. This kind of unique inter-dependence between artists requires that each much surrender a degree of their autonomy. That can be hard. All kinds of feelings come up. A trust and respect must develop between them. It also demands a level of skill that the average person cannot comprehend.

Paul and Troy are men with big hearts, strong opinions, and powerful personalities. They are both blessed with their own unique skills. Most valued by me, they share a vital trait: the capacity to love.  They are each kind and compassionate men and longtime actors, deeply talented, who have paid their dues.

In this year following a long period of despair, the recent triumphs of Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci are a spiritual shot in the arm. There is reason to rejoice. Every once in a while, the good guys come out on top.  

Stephen Sachs is the Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.

Video: Fountain Theatre prepares parking lot for new Outdoor Stage

Irish ghosts on St. Patrick’s Day

On St. Patrick’s Day, we raise a pint to Irish playwright Conor McPherson and our award-winning Los Angeles premiere of SHINING CITY.

Embrace the light. Let theatre shine.

France-Luce Benson

by France-Luce Benson

On March 12, 2020, I flew from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale to watch my 14-year-old niece, Shelby, act in her first play. The year prior we’d spent months, at her request, preparing for her audition for Dillard Performance Arts High School. Days before her audition, she desperately asked, “Auntie, do you think I have a chance?” As any loving aunt would, I replied, “Are you kidding? They’d be crazy not to accept you!”

Truth is, I was worried. Not about whether she’d get in or not—I had no doubt she would. I was actually worried about what would follow when she did get in. What would happen if she fell in love with theatre, just as I did at that age? What if it became her passion, her profession, her vocation, her life? I wanted to protect her from a life of rejection, of disappointment, of cutthroat competition, of financial instability, of heartbreak. I know, right? Project much?

Needless to say, Shelby’s school show did not go on. Like theatres all over the country, the school shut down that week and stayed closed for the remainder of 2020. What this last year without live theatre has taught me is that all the things I love and miss about theatre far outweigh the fears and anxieties I projected on to my niece. I was so focused on the ways the industry can hurt and disappoint. But 2020 reminded me of the ways the art of theatre loves. Theatre heals. Theatre connects. Theatre teaches. Theatre activates change and even revolution.

And probably most evident in this past year, no matter what, theatre survives. I am in awe of the ways my community has demonstrated this truth, and am immensely grateful for the opportunities I have had to create, connect, heal, and teach through my own work. In July 2020, I was one of four female-identifying playwrights, representing the African Diaspora, commissioned to write plays in response to the prompt “Conversations with the Ancestors.” A production of Project Y Theatre, All Hands on Deck streamed throughout the summer.

From April through December, I hosted “Saturday Matinees” with the Fountain Theatre, a virtual salon that featured theatre artists from all over the country, including Kit Yan, Antonio Lyons, Lisa Strum, Dennis A. Allen, Vanessa Garcia, and more. The weekly series celebrated BIPOC artists, while providing audiences time and space to connect with each another during a time when many of us endured incredible isolation. In November, I led a four-week workshop hosted by Global Voices Theatre in London. Participants joined from all over the world—Hong Kong, Philippines, India, the U.S.—to develop new plays aimed at correcting revisionist history.

In January of this year, my play Tigress of San Domingue streamed as part of Atlantic Theatre Company’s African Caribbean Mixfest, and last month I was among six playwrights featured in Long Distance Affair. Produced by Juggerknot Theatre and Popup Theatrics, LDA brought together playwrights and actors from six cities around the world—Los Angeles, Portland, Beirut, Lagos, Mexico City, and Mumbai—to create immersive theatre. With over 60 live performances, LDA is the closest thing to in-person theatre I experienced all year. Audience members interacted with one another in intimate Zoom rooms, and with the characters whose lives they interrupted, often at odd times depending on the city (2 a.m. in Lagos).

I had the pleasure of collaborating with L.A.-based actor Wendy Elizabeth Abraham, who bravely invited us into her home in Sherman Oaks, and into her emotional journey through grief and motherhood. I attended about six of the 60-plus performances, and no two were ever the same.

Finally, I launched Fountain Voices, a new arts education initiative I developed in my role as community engagement coordinator for the Fountain. The program promotes empathy and community building, teaching students how to write original plays based on interviews with members of their own community. The successful pilot run of Fountain Voices at Hollywood High culminated in January, with a powerful presentation of work that explored homophobia, depression, and homelessness among teenagers. This month, Fountain Voices begins a partnership with Compton Unified School District, where we will serve over 100 students, longing to be seen and heard.

My time spent with these students reaffirmed what the last year taught me. And when my niece is ready to return to school and inevitably enjoys her first moment onstage, rather than prepare her for the darkness, I will encourage her to embrace all the light and love theatre shines on us.

This post originally appeared in American Theatre Magazine.

One year ago today …

On March 12, 2020, we were forced to shut down our hit production of the world premiere of HUMAN INTEREST STORY due to the COVID pandemic. One year later, after an unimaginable period of closing our doors, we are poised to launch our game-changing Outdoor Stage this summer.

L.A. premiere of ‘An Octoroon’ by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins will launch outdoor stage at Fountain Theatre

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

The Los Angeles premiere of An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins will inaugurate the new outdoor stage at the Fountain Theatre later this spring. Judith Moreland will direct.

Winner of the Obie Award for Best American Play, Jacobs-Jenkins’ landmark play has earned ecstatic reviews nationwide. The New York Times hailed it as “this decade’s most eloquent theatrical statement on race in America today.” The Guardian declared it “brilliant” and “extraordinary.”

An Octoroon is a radical, incendiary and subversively funny riff on Dion Boucicault’s once-popular 1859 mustache-twirling melodrama set on a Louisiana plantation. A spectacular collision of the antebellum South and 21st-century cultural politics, An Octoroon twists a funhouse world of larger-than-life stereotypes into blistering social commentary to create a gasp-inducing satire.

“I’m proud the Fountain will introduce this bold play to Los Angeles audiences on our new outdoor stage,” states Fountain artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It could not be timelier. The moment has come for our nation to confront its own racist history. Branden uses satire to get to the dark core of American slavery and the racial stereotypes that continue to plague this country today.” 

Earlier this year, the Fountain received approval from the City of Los Angeles to install the outdoor stage for the purpose of safely presenting live performances and other events during the pandemic. Construction is set to begin this month, with the opening of An Octoroon slated for June.

Before that can happen, a number of tasks remain on the Fountain’s to-do list to inaugurate the outdoor venue. The first step is to repave the parking lot, where the stage will be installed. Lighting, sound, and video equipment will be loaded in. New chairs will be positioned according to COVID guidelines to accommodate 84 viewers. The entire site will meet all safety requirements for artists and audience members.

“Everything now depends on the COVID numbers,” says Sachs. “Once they drop to a level where the County Department of Public Health allows a gathering outdoors of one hundred people, with safety guidelines in place, we’re good to go.”

The new outdoor performance area is made possible, in part, by the generous support of Karen Kondazian, the Vladimir and Araxia Buckhantz FoundationRabbi Anne BrenerCarrie Chassin and Jochen HaberMiles and Joni Benickes, and the Phillips-Gerla Family.

For more information about the Fountain Theatre, go to www.fountaintheatre.com